Snowflakes and Herring

I wrote this post 5 years ago, but found it to be very relevant for the time we face today because it carries the message that our ability to influence the impact we have on the world around us is dependent upon the harnessing of two very important concepts; working together or in this case working to not be together and exercising love. What I wrote those five years ago is what follows:

Achievement in life isn’t about opportunity and luck; but rather force and commitment born of and wielded by strong character.

Christopher Jones

The inspiration for this piece came from two different things my six year old son Scott told me. If you are a regular reader you may be able to tell that I believe in the value of individuals and their potential from my posts. You would also know my thoughts on character. The great thing is that it took one of my sons to bring it home to me as only the perspective of a child often can.

It was a cold day this winter when my son said to me from the backseat; “Dad, it’s snowing again.”


In his excited I need to share something with you voice he said; “Daddy, can I tell you something?”

“You can tell me anything.”

“People are snowflakes. You wanna know why?” He asked with a tone that told me I was sure to get his explanation no matter my reply.

“Why buddy?”

“Because they’re all different, but special just like snowflakes.”

I thought about that for quite a while, but the amount of snow we received this year coupled with an old saying about making a difference really drove home how true that statement was and how powerful it becomes when we as individuals, believe and act in accordance with it.  Snowflakes, tiny and wonderful in their uniqueness as individuals can comprise some of the greatest forces in nature.  When put together, they can:

  • Create a beautiful scene to behold,
  • foster an exciting afternoon of fun, or
  • cause major accidents and damage.

Much like human beings, their power lies within, but is amplified when collaborating with and serving others.  In contrast, the aspect that separates them from human beings is their lack of ability to decide the outcome.  People have the potential to be infinitely powerful, but also decided the positive and/or negative consequences of that power.  Therein lays the importance of purpose, integrity and character.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my son was talking to me about our visit to the herring run.  We had gone to see the thousands of fish swimming up the fish ladder to get to their pond for laying eggs.  On our way home we purchased (and later that night read) a book that was geared toward children with its simple sentences and colorful maps of the area.  This was a normal series of events for us that I didn’t give much thought until a few days later when my son was talking about how he liked going to the herring run.  He asked me if I knew what it was about.  I (of course) began to explain why they swim up river when he stopped me and said that it was about love. When I asked him what he meant, Scott (my son) explained (in very similar terms) the following:

The herring go through all that work out of love for their kids that aren’t even born yet. They escape bigger fish, they swim against the current the whole way, they jump up a ladder, and some of them die just so they can keep their kids safe. That’s because they love them, but they don’t even get to see them. They just make sure they’re safe.

How often in life do we do things out of love?  Love in its purest form is a commitment.  It comes in many forms. Commitments to our children, jobs, ourselves, people around us, and hopefully…our character.

Character helps us face the forces we encounter whether they are good or bad; right or wrong.  No matter what our goal: athletic performance, academic excellence, career advancement, or enriching other people’s lives; we experience many forces both negative and positive.  It is out of commitment that we move forward.  Most importantly our character above all else is about the marriage of force and commitment enacted with integrity.

How is it that:

  • my six year old can explain this so simply by watching snowflakes and herring,
  • I can explain it by writing it,
  • but to walk this path consistently on a day to day basis seems a battle that is it times beyond me

The End Result:

We must all make a commitment to act with integrity and use or resist any forces possible to improve not only ourselves, but those around us so that we may experience true success!

As always…

Be Purposeful, Act with Integrity, and Build your Character